From L-R, Boniface Okoye, Francis Aniezechukwu, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike and others at the MAJAN seminar.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The anticipated one day seminar organised by the Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) took place in Apapa on thursday with various experts in the industry painstakingly reviewing the activities within the sector and giving their opinion about the direction that the various economic activities in the industry should take. The seminar presented a collection of seasoned professionals of varying orientation and different aspects that make up the various entities within the sector.
The first paper was presented by the very savvy researcher and the Director-General of the Sea Empowerment and Research Centre, Mr. Francis Ude Aniezechukwu who did a comparative analysis of activities on blue/ocean economy within some selected countries/zones around the world. Some of his findings show intriguing figures that should set our minds in a perpetual thinking state to ponder numerous questions about our collective roles or lack of them as regards the activities within the sector in our part of the world.
Mr. Aniezechukwu said that according to records, the United States of America made an estimated $373 billion from its Marine economy in 2018 and that the sub-sector grows faster than the general economy as a whole. He also indicated that the European Union report of 2018 shows that the marine economy is a driver of growth, jobs and innovation and had a turn over of over €565 billion plus the €174 billion worth of value added and also providing jobs for 3 million people.
More picture from the seminar.
According to Mr. Aniezechukwu, record shows that the East Asian Seas region is recognised as the centre of Marine biodiversity globally, being home to 31℅ of the world’s mangrove, 33℅ of the sea grass beds and a third of all the world’s coral reef. Countries of the EAS region account for 80℅ of the global aquaculture and around 60℅ of the world’s capture fisheries.
Moreover, the region’s sea serves as an important conduit for 90℅ of world trade through shipping. Again, the EAS region is a centre of econkomic growth, home to the 2nd and 3rd largest economies in the world (China and Japan respectively). The Ocean economy (including the blue economy initiatives) around the 10 countries around the EAS region is estimated to be worth $1.4 trillion in value added and around 54 million people are said to be employed in ocean industries in the region.
He also noted that the Australian Index of Marine Industry in 2018 indicated that in 2015-2016 the blue economy was worth $68.1 billion.
The paper presenter also said that there is an enormous opportunity to develop Africa’s Maritime or blue economy which in turn will help reduce poverty, create employment, growth and export and strengthen food and energy security. He noted however that a few challenges have held back progress. One of the challenges in the sector is the incidents of piracy though he noted that figures show a gradual decline in piracy, 2019 had 62 incidents, 2020 had 47 cases while the first quarter of 2021 shows 38 incidents. He highlighted that it is of worthy note that the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 signed the Suppression of Piracy Act into law and that the Nigerian Maritime Administrative and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has started implementing it. With an estimated 47,000km of coastline (African Union, 2012) there is an enormous potential for the African countries in the expansion of fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and transportation and these can help to reduce poverty and enhance food production, energy, security, employment, economic growth, export, Ocean health and the sustainable use of Ocean resources. The total value added to the African economy is estimated at about $24 billion or 1.26℅ of the Gross Domestic Product of all African countries.
More picture from the event.
Mr. Aniezechukwu added that the fundamental things to do in other that the potentials within the blue economy may be realised are the Empowerment of the regulatory Agencies, NIMASA, NPA, NSC. He noted that the Ocean contributes 70-80℅ of the total movement of goods and cargoes. He also advocated for the creation of the ministry of Maritime Affairs noting that with that all the agencies under such a ministry will be properly positioned to fully carry out their functions as he opined that our waterways are presently empty. Mr. Aniezechukwu deplored the fact that there is no statistical data on the Maritime sector of our economy as he said that NIMASA sources it’s data from the International Maritime Bureau, he called on the FG to inaugurate a data agency or unit that will keep records of all activities within the sector. He said that the major ingredient of the blue economy is to empower the people to maximise the use of the Ocean.
The paper presenter noted that the Philippines has the highest number of seafarers In the world and that this is through and concerted effort. Every country that has access to the sea has some form of advantage, he wants Nigerians to change their thinking in other to achieve the potential benefits in the sector.
In contribution to the topic, the National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike said that Nigeria has utilized less than one tenth of her potentials within the blue economy as he noted that some less endowed countries along the West African coast have higher activities in relation to size and population than Nigeria. Mr. Nura Wagani, the CEO of NURWAGS International Services Limited and a task force member of the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) opined that there should be a proper safety equipment in place to the level that any we should be able as a country to call in distressed ship for repair or be able to help with any need for people who are on board any vessel within and around our coastal area, but that this is non-existent. He also submitted that security is not just about acquiring gadgets alone, but also about the totality of our conscious activities that promote a secure environment, he concurred with the suggestion for an immediate set up of a Maritime ministry.
Francis Ude Aniezechukwu concluded that the only disadvantage of a blue economy is pollution, but that with proper legislation and the needed application of rules that can easily take care of issues, things will turn out right as he also advocates that blue economy should have professionals driving it and should also have a human face .
In his own presentation, Mr. Nura Wagani x-rayed events from the barge operations angle and posited that barge operation has been an early means of transporting goods, but that the current trend of barging started when in 2018, the former managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority flagged off the barging operation from the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal. He noted that the operation has had its ups and downs as he said that most of the barges used were those used as local content materials in the oil communities in the Niger Delta area. He also noted that most of the crew members are untrained and have not been certified by the appropriate authorities. Mr. Wagani also noted that multiple taxation by the authorities affect businesses negatively and that a lot of time, the terminals do not give operators the window to access the terminals and discharge the cargoes thereby causing a waste of time and resources. He noted with utmost importance that the various channels have a lot of wreckages and wastes that have been dumped inside and these need to be cleared through dredging.
In addition, Mr. Wagani advocated for the set up of the Maritime bank to cater for the needs of the industry as he concluded by asking the media to help highlight the issues that are abound in barge operation in the country.
He concluded by asking the three regulatory agencies in barge operation- NIWA for crew certification, NIMASA for barge certification and the NPA for the business regulation to live up to their billing and seek the necessary innovation that will enhance the business of barge operation in the country.
In his presentation, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike stated rather regrettably that a lot of the members of his Association are dieing untimely owing to the pressures from the business of freight forwarding and goods clearing and declared frontally that the major problems that business owners are having in the industry is that of policy inconsistencies by the Government coupled with too many bottlenecks to contend with. He declared that the lack of vision gives no room for infrastructural development and expansion as he deplored the attitudinal problem of government workers who may not believe in a particular policy that may not be in their interest, but do things in unethical manner for selfish reasons. He lamented that an agency like the Customs mainly care about revenue generation to the detriment of trade facilitation which is the main concern of the CEMA act. He added that when trade is better facilitated and flourishes, businesses grow and more revenue will then be generated. He advocated a constant government and stakeholders meeting where issues are holistically dissected and resolved as he made three suggestions for the areas that need government’s attention, these are sensitisation, training and seminars/conferences.
Hon. Nwabunike also chided the freight forwarders/clearing agents for not getting their acts together as he also berates some media personnel for fueling the squabbles among the various practitioners and Associations. He wants a proper planning in the Maritime sector by the Government and also wants operators to act with integrity at all times as he asked that we should as individuals examine our consciences.
On his part, Mr. Boniface Okoye asked an important question, what are the causes of the gridlock around the Ports corridors? He noted that regulatory failures over the years have created the problem as shipping companies do not take the empty containers back to the countries of origin owing to the collection of container deposits. He asked the Nigerian Shippers Council to do its job of forcing the shipping companies to accept empty containers and move them back to their places of origin as ships come in with hundreds of filled containers, but go back empty.
The Registrar of the NAGAFF Academy, Mr. Francis Omotosho on his part started by pointing out that the Central Bank of Nigeria has a series of policy statement as regards dollars and transactions in foreign currency as he said that many importers have problems in gaining access to foreign exchange. He added that our Ports have haphazard development because of the lack of a master plan and asks government to look into this aspect in other to maximise the inherent potentials within the system.
He said that anywhere in the world that the movement of cargoes and their place of placement are paid for before shipment and that the costs of holding bays are already embedded in the initial arrangement. He opined that the shipping companies are becoming a big problem as they do not make arrangements for the holding bays to house the empty containers in preparation for export. He argued that the terminal operators have managed to make the cost of clearing goods to rise astronomically instead of the low cost that was intended before the concessioning of the port terminals. The examination of cargoes he said is a problem as the manual examination technique is outdated and cumbersome.
Mr. Omotosho noted that the facilities or lack of the them have contributed to the seriousness of the traffic grid and the electronic call up system is a step in the right direction, but needs tweaking to make it function adequately. He called the coming of the barge operations as a child of necessity, but added that it has not addressed the needs of cargo movement as multimodal means of transportation is needed, feeder vessels are needed to move cargoes from vessels and not these bunkering barges that are presently being used.
The various experts particularly agreed that revenue generated by government should not be the yardstick for measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the sector, that operations within the sector leaves much to be desired, that the critical infrastructure that needs to make for efficiency within the system should be developed. They also agreed that there should be more investment in training, seminar and workshops for all stakeholders, they hope that all the regulatory agencies will be properly empowered to get their jobs done, that the standard trading conditions will be used by all operators, that the government gives policy statements and direction in all aspects of the blue economy and that all hands should be on deck to be able to maximise the achievable benefits from the system. Each concluded that the first quarter may not have been as good as one would have expected owing to various factors and forces militating against the system, but that the inherently huge potentials makes it a must that all should put in their best to properly develop the sector and make it the economic and social success that it rightly has to achieve.
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